A Texas district judge temporarily blocked Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath from taking over the Houston Independent School District and replacing its school board until a final judgment on HISD's lawsuit against the commissioner is issued.
The preliminary injunction handed down by Travis County District Judge Catherine Mauzy Wednesday night hampers the state's plan to replace the HISD school board with a board of managers and prevents the state from intervening in underperforming schools.
The legal battle over the state's largest district — and one of the largest in the nation — has been going on for months and is not expected to end anytime soon. A trial date is set for June 22.
In her decision, Mauzy said it would cause "irreparable harm" to HISD if Morath took over the district before the lawsuit was resolved. Her decision, she wrote, will "maintain the status quo" between the state and district until the fate of the board is determined.
HISD and its board did not immediately respond to Education Dive's request for comment. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) said in a statement that while it is "disappointed" about the decision, calling it a "temporary setback," it intends to immediately appeal the decision.
“The wheels of justice are turning — and those wheels often turn slowly," the TEA said. "Any time you are taking on a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, the road to meaningful change is long and arduous, but when the futures of our children are at stake, we will stop at nothing to make sure they are properly provided for."
After the state announced the takeover in November, HISD Board President Diana Dávila said it was "no surprise."
At the time, Morath cited the board's "inability to address long-standing academic deficiencies" and the "breakdown in governance" as reasons for a takeover. However, the district — which is comprised of a large number of African American and Hispanic students — is arguing in its lawsuit that by replacing the elected board members, the state is taking away voters' rights based on race and national origin.
In December, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel denied HISD's request for a preliminary injunction to stop Morath from appointing a board of managers. Yeakel also remanded to state court some of the district's claims that the education commissioner exceeded his power.
The American Federation of Teachers, which initially planned to join the HISD lawsuit as a plaintiff but was recently barred by Yeakel, said it is “weighing [its] options” as to how to move forward. There is a possibility the organization could file a separate lawsuit, spokesman Rob D’Amico said.